THIS winter, I will become a part of another culture.
I have bought three tickets to West Virginia Universitybasketball games in Charleston. And when the Mountaineers starttheir pre-game warmups, I will be right behind the basket on row D.
I bought the tickets because the Mountaineer season in Charlestonis a great chance to watch good basketball. But I can't help feelinglike I'll be a part of a foreign exchange program.
I went to, let's say a different school.
Its fans wear green. And white.
And it's in Huntington.
That school, which will remain unnamed, wants nothing more thanto beat the pants off its academic big brother. In Brady Bunchterms, it's sort of a Jan versus Marcia complex.
So when the crowd starts chanting, 'Let's Goooooo Mountaineers,'will I be able to participate?
Or might my jaws lock involuntarily as a result of years of green-and-white indoctrination. . . What if I pry open my mouth to cheer,but blurt out 'Beat 'em up, beat 'em up, give 'em hell Herd!'
(Herd is just an example. The mascot for the unnamed school Iwent to could be anything - Fruit Bats, Banana Slugs, Bagels. . .)
My green and white indoctrination runs deep. My father was themascot during his days at the school, which was named for aprominent Supreme Court justice. (Earl Warren perhaps? The WarrenCommissioners?)
Once, my dad was stranded at an out-of-town football game and hadto hitchhike back to school in his buffalo. . . er, fruit batcostume. These days, he owns a green van, green shutters and one ofthose big green flags that flaps outside people's doors. Even hisChristmas tree is green. He is a maniac, my friends.
While I was growing up, I had a green and white hat that said'Wax them 'eers.' Will I be able to make the transition? Will I everfeel natural asking my work colleagues 'How 'bout them 'eers?'
(That phrase seems awkward anyway. I mean, it could be anything -'How 'bout them toasters' or 'How 'bout them wildebeests' - and Iwould feel downright silly about it.)
The factor to remember is that the Mountaineers will be playingteams from even stranger lands - Syracuse, Georgetown, Miami (Fla.).It's important to demonstrate that our way of life is superior totheirs.
When I am surrounded by blue and gold, I will try to rememberthat I am part of the whole. I will cheer for our simple mountainlifestyle to win out over the would-be big city conquerors.
I will put my petty regional rivalry aside for the good of ourstate heritage. Who knows? Maybe I'll end up wearing a brown leathersport coat, just like West Virginia Coach Gale Catlett.
And when the games get close and I really start to resent the bigcity invaders, maybe I'll let loose with an extended 'Let'sGooooooooooooooooooooooo Mountaineers.'
Writer Brad McElhinny, with a lifetime free throw percentage of09, can be reached at 348-1244 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org